Nothing makes me more happier than collecting specimens. I feel as if I am transported back to the Victorian era and am on a grand expedition to uncover the mysteries of the deep and testing for the first time the Azoic Theory of the ocean.
Except that my expedition only lasts for 4 weeks, not 4 years, and my purpose is not prove life exists in great depths at great extremes but to study the life we expect to find at these places. One such place is the East-Lau Spreading Center between Fiji and The Kingdom of Tonga. Here I am studying, as part of my graduate work, the ecology of communities structured by three habitat-forming molluscs, the mussel Bathymodiolus brevior and the snails Alviniconcha hessleri and Ifremeria nautilei. These 3 species are large chemoautotrophic species and serve as the foundation for an intricate network of associated fauna living within the aggregations of each mollusc. I am also describing, with other colleagues, species of anemone, zoanthid and shrimp from there (6, 1, 1 species, respectively).
The picture above shows my haul from the 2006 (sept.) field season. My last field, it is time for me to write it up, turn it in and move on. I don't know how many specimens I've collected in total. But from all the quantitative collections I've made in 2005 and 2006 I have found ~55 species associated with the 3 habitat-forming communities and have counted over 50,000 individuals of this associated fauna so far weighing in at over 1,948 grams. There are still a few taxonomic details I am working out with a Polynoid Polychaete genus, so I'll let you know the final word after that is sorted out along with the counts of the habitat-forming fauna.
As a final caveat, yes all the organisms I have identified are INVERTS! Surprised? I didn't think so... We did collect some zoarcid fish that I will analyze the gut contents of, but none were caught in my quantitative collections.